Fendri produced a scroll from his vest pocket and opened it meticulously. “Today you have your semi-annual meeting with the Supreme Commanders of the Imperial Forces. They will be assembling in court shortly.” “Good,” Mandrean barked. “They had better produce sound reasons why their territories are in such disarray.” “Remember to mind your temper this time,” Fendri noted. “You rule through them. It is their cooperation that makes the empire run effectively. Scolding them will build no allegiance. It could even lead to rebellion.” “Why do you think I lose my temper?” Mandrean asked rhetorically. “Because they are incompetent. I will restrain nothing. If their progress is not satisfactory, they will be lucky to escape with a scolding. This is no side- street cart I am running. This is the most powerful empire in the world. To run it I need strong leaders. If they do not produce the results I desire, the Empire will move forward over their bones. I need results, not excuses.” “They are closer to the people than you,” Fendri pointed out looking farther down the scroll. “The people are timid like sheep. They only need a strong shepherd to be kept in line. They will follow their Emperor. I have no doubt.” Fendri smiled as he looked up from the parchment. “Well there is some good news from Lord Necromancer.” Mandrean showed immediate excitement and ran over to Fendri. “What news?” Fendri read from the scroll. “Great Lord Mandrean, it is my great pleasure to inform you my agents have just apprehended Linvin Grithinshield and his entourage. I have taken possession of the key and will deliver it to you in court today so all may see your prize. To satisfy your curiosity I will have the Grithinshield party there to bear witness to you magnificent accomplishment. Long live the Emperor.” Mandrean screamed with excitement. “At last he has come through with the key. I told you he would produce it for me. You always doubt Necromancer’s sincerity. Now you see he is loyal to his master. He has no choice.” Fendri retained his composure during the jubilation. “I am truly thankful he has produced what you sought. That does not mean I trust him.” Mandrean clutched his friend’s shoulder and shook him in a brotherly manner. “You worry like an old woman. Necromancer cannot harm me and is totally obedient. Sometimes I think I keep you around so you can do my worrying for me.”
“That may be, Manenvious, but I am also the only person who will always give you the straight truth.” “From your point of view,” Mandrean corrected. “That would be the only viewpoint I would have, Old Friend. Perhaps I do worry for no reason. If, however, I am right, you could be in danger. Necromancer is not a person to be taken lightly. The Supreme Commanders hold considerable power. You must keep your wits about you.” “Soon none of that will matter,” Mandrean said in great anticipation. “After today, no one will dare challenge me.” “Then I shall send for your wardrobe assistants to help you dress,” Fendri said as he resumed his rigid stance. “You must look your best today.” “See to it at once,” Mandrean ordered. As Fendri turned to leave Mandrean added, “Remember to send the orders for the boy.” Mandrean saw that Fendri stopped halfway down the stairs and turned to look at his master. Mandrean looked indignant. Fendri sighed and answered, “As you command, My Lord.” With that, he left the room and went to summon the house staff.